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Assembly Election

Foyle: Eastwood bullish despite Sinn Féin's victory

Sinn Fein's Elisha McCallion with Raymond McCartney after she topped the poll in Foyle. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

Election hub: Full Foyle results

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has insisted the party will retain its Westminster seat in Foyle despite being outpolled in the constituency for the first time.

As the home of both the current leader and its best known former leader, John Hume, Derry has long been a citadel for the SDLP.

However, Sinn Féin scored a significant symbolic victory when it took the biggest share of the assembly vote on Friday.

Following the retirement of former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness on health grounds, his replacement Elisha McCallion also managed to top the poll and was elected on the first count.

Outgoing assembly member Raymond McCartney was then returned on the back of her transfers.

Sinn Féin celebrated the victory with a blow-up crocodile, having taken 36.6% of the Foyle vote - a rise of eight percentage points from last May.

The SDLP also saw its vote increase by more than 2,000 and its share by 1.8 per cent, with both Mr Eastwood and former minister Mark H Durkan returned to Stormont, but the day belonged to Sinn Féin.

Mr Eastwood claimed their success was due to the particular circumstances surrounding the election.

“We will retain the Westminster seat (held by former leader Mark Durkan), I have no doubt about that,” he said.

“We’ve been counted out of this constituency many, many times."

However, Mr McCartney said people in Derry understood why the election had been called.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that Martin McGuinness energised our people and I think at the doors people were saying ‘we know why he did what he had to do’."

Meanwhile, the election also marked the end of veteran campaigner Eamonn McCann’s brief career as at Stormont.

The People before Profit candidate lost out in a battle for the fifth seat to returning DUP MLA Gary Middleton.

Mr McCann put his defeat down to a polarisation of politics at Stormont.

He also felt his party had failed to explain its attitude to Brexit properly.

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